Presentation Perfection Paralysis

Are you trying to be perfect? Is your goal to give “the” perfect presentation with no mistakes that leaves everyone in your audience thrilled and begging for more? And do you get un-usefully upset with yourself if something goes wrong? If you forget to say something or can’t answer a question from the audience?

If this sounds familiar, you may actually be doing the exact opposite to what you need to do in order to perform at your best.

It’s one of life’s common paradoxes that the harder we try to do something, the less likely we are to achieve it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you’ll succeed without any effort. To begin with, our performance improves with effort. But at a certain point the law of diminishing returns kicks in and our rate of improvement reduces, even though we’re applying more effort. But wait – there’s more. We try even harder and then we reach a point where the harder we try, the worse we do.

In public speaking this commonly shows up shows up as:

  • excessive time spent researching a topic or rehearsing the speech
  • creating a huge Powerpoint presentation which puts the audience to sleep
  • instead of rehearsing an energetic presentation
  • various unpleasant changes in our body such as shakes, tremors, stiffness and a
  • dry mouth loss of concentration, speech flow and memory.

Sound familiar? Here are four tips for getting out of the “Perfect Presentation” trap:

  1. Accept the paradox that at a certain point, the more you try to go forward the more you go backwards
  2. Listen to others – if they say you’re doing a good job then maybe you are
  3. Notice whether your feelings and behaviours are supportive or sabotaging. They’re your best guide to whether you’re demanding too much of yourself.
  4. Pull back – let go of the need to be perfect and realise that this attitude will help you to be better.

We have to face facts – we are not perfect. We are human and humans have faults and make mistakes. We’re more likely to succeed in our endeavours if we accept this fact rather than rail against it.

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